By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Easton Neitzel looked like he was shooting on a bigger rim than everyone else.
The McNary senior had a career high 30 points as the Celtics defeated Forest Grove 86-68 at home on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
“Guys were finding me when I was open,” Neitzel said. “I hit some shots and got in rhythm.”
Neitzel’s 30 points included four 3-pointers. He also went 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
“He didn’t take any bad shots,” McNary head coach Ryan Kirch said. “We’ve really been working on him playing with strength in his lower half and draw contact and play through it. We were really impressed with Easton tonight. He just continues to get better and plays within himself and I thought that was huge.”
McNary also nearly got a triple-double from Matthew Ismay. The senior finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
“I think Matt leads us with his toughness consistently over 32 minutes,” Kirch said. “Guys sort of follow suit around him.”
Chandler Cavell gave the Celtics a spark off the bench in the first quarter. The junior had 10 points but Forest Grove led 23-21.
McNary took control in the second quarter, scoring the first seven points and outscoring the Vikings 24-9 in the period to take a 45-32 lead into halftime.
“Early on, we gave up some offensive rebounds that we shouldn’t have,” Kirch said. “They made some shots. It was a few different things but I think once we got into the second quarter, we got a little bit more rhythm going.”
Ismay picked up his third foul just 30 minutes into the second half and was forced to the bench. However, he didn’t stay there long as Forest Grove pulled within 45-39 with 5:32 remaining.
“When we put Matthew back in, we took him off of one of their primary guys to kind of hide him a little bit,” Kirch said. “The guys that kind of go unnoticed are Alex Martin, just how consistently he plays defensively. Lucas Garvey comes in and guards really well for us. Adam Harvey can do the same.”
Neitzel made back-to-back 3’s and went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final three minutes of the third quarter as the Celtics held on to a 65-54 lead.
The Vikings opened the fourth quarter with two 3-pointers and a free throw to get within 65-61. However, Forest Grove couldn’t get any closer as Cade Goff and Ismay scored on back-to-back possessions to stretch the lead to eight. McNary made its final nine free throws to put away the Vikings.
“We play in the toughest league and just getting one win is so difficult. It’s exhausting,” Kirch said.
Lady Celts win at the buzzer
Playing on the road, McNary senior Sydney Hunter made a 3-pointer at the buzzer as the Lady Celts escaped Forest Grove with a 43-41 victory.
Hunter finished with 18 points and nine rebounds.
Jaylene Montano added seven points as McNary outscored the Vikings 12-5 in the fourth quarter.
McNary travels to West Salem Friday and then hosts Sprague in a make-up game on Saturday. Girls tip off at 5:45 p.m. followed by the boys at 7:15.